Meet Dr. Heather Walder

Dr. Heather Walder, a Visiting Assistant Professor for 2016-2017, will be joining the Campus Archaeology team this fall.

Dr. Heather Walder
Dr. Heather Walder

She is an anthropological archaeologist researching exchange, migration, and identity in past situations of colonialism and intercultural interaction. She completed her Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin – Madison in 2015, with a dissertation investigating glass and metal artifacts from17th and early-18th century habitation sites of Indigenous peoples of the Upper Great Lakes region. Compositional analysis (LA-ICP-MS) of glass trade beads and pendants was employed to define glass recipe patterns, while physical attribute analysis of the copper-base metal objects qualitatively and quantitatively recorded artifacts’ size, shape, and working-methods, such as hammering, scoring, bending, clipping, folding and crumpling. Examining both metal and glass artifacts provided complementary data sets that allowed identification of difference and overlap in Native peoples’ technological practices and trading connections, and clarified spatial and temporal aspects of interaction for a period of dynamic population movement and socio-economic change.This research produced new archaeological evidence that demonstrated how historically-documented Native American groups in the Upper Great Lakes region, including the Huron, Potawatomi, Meskwaki, Anishinaabe, and Odawa, applied their existing knowledge of technology and material properties to artifacts obtained through trade relationships. Available European-made materials changed over time, as glass workshops shifted their recipes; likewise, Native communities and individuals applied diverse technological practices to convert European items into more socially significant and useful objects like re-fired glass pendants and metal beads. Clarifying these practices through technological style analyses investigated the relationship between culture and technology, contributing to broader examinations of how Indigenous populations in contact with colonial powers maintain(ed) cultural continuity when faced with interaction and material change.

While at Michigan State University, Dr. Walder will continue pursuing similar questions related to historically-documented encounters among Indigenous peoples of the Midwest and Europeans through further material and spatial analyses. Much of this work lends itself to collaboration with MSU students and research on previously excavated artifacts in the MSU collections, such as those from  the Cloudman Site, a protohistoric or Early Historic Anishinaabe / Ojibwe camp on Drummond Island, and the Marquette Mission site, a Tionontate Huron village in close proximity to a Jesuit mission at St. Ignace, occupied c. 1670 – 1700. Walder’s expertise in archaeological chemistry and historical artifact analysis will allow her to address new research questions focused on the material culture excavated by the Campus Archaeology Program. She is looking forward to working with the CAP Fellows and undergraduate interns this year on upcoming projects.

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